The lie that built the NT intervention

Former editor of the National Indigenous Times Chris Graham (foreground) spoke at the forum. Photo: Mat Ward.

A 2006 episode of the ABC’s Lateline program led directly to the greatest human rights abuse in the past half century, said founder and former editor of the National Indigenous Times Chris Graham, at a public forum of 150 people in Sydney on September 3.

The program focused on exposing alleged instances of sexual abuse against Aboriginal women and children, including petrol being exchanged for sex and the existence of a paedophile ring, in the Northern Territory community of Mutitjulu. Graham said Lateline did not visit Mutitjulu during research or filming of the program.

Since the program aired, an NT police investigation found no evidence to support the claim that petrol was being traded for sex. A separate investigation, by the Australian Crime Commission, found no evidence supporting claims of a paedophile ring.

Lateline included an interview with Mantatjara Wilson, an Aboriginal woman, but failed to tell viewers she had not lived in Mutitjulu for seven years, Graham said.
An inquiry by the ABC’s Independent Complaints Review panel said that although there was no breach of policy on Lateline’s behalf, Wilson’s comments did not explicitly refer to the Mutitjulu community, but to Indigenous Australians in general and should be considered opinion, not fact.

In a separate interview on the same program, Lateline claimed to be speaking with an “anonymous youth worker” who asserted knowledge of violence and abuse against Aboriginal women.

The ABC later conceded that the interviewee was not a youth worker, but Gregory Andrews, who was the assistant secretary in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, advising the then Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough.

Graham questioned the credibility of Andrews’ claims, saying: “I’m not disputing that Gregory Andrews was very affected by what he saw in Central Australia. I’m disputing his truthfulness and his motive.”

Lateline also failed to disclose its knowledge of the implication of the Mutitjulu health clinic and Dr Geoff Stewart, one of Lateline’s chief witnesses and resident doctor at Mutitjulu between 2000 and 2003, in enabling an environment conducive to abuse of young Aboriginal women.

Stewart had prescribed Viagra to a man suspected of sexually abusing young women, said Graham. He provided documents that suggested Lateline was aware of this at the time of airing.

Also addressing the forum was Tjanara Goreng Goreng, former senior policy adviser at the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, who spoke of the investigation and legal battle she endured after blowing the whistle on the proposed government policy that led to the Northern Territory intervention.

In closing, Graham said: “I’ve been a journalist for 20 years, and this is the greatest journalistic fraud I’ve ever seen.”


I think it's pretty careless to suggest that the intervention was based on a lie. The Meke Mekarle ('Little Children are Sacred') report was detailed and considered, and exposed a significant incidence of child abuse in some NT communities. Of course, this shouldn't be too surprising, given the significant incidence of child abuse in some mainstream communities. But it shouldn't be ignored, or denied. The lie wasn't that there is abuse. One obvious lie was the implication that it's everywhere and everyone. But the big lie about the intervention was that this heavy handed imposition of wayne gibbons' policies ever had a chance of making a positive contribution. In fact, despite claiming to be responding to the issues raised in the LCAS report, the NTER laws ignored not only the 97 recommendations, but the well made and emphasized urging that 'participation is essential to success'. Instead of taking on the tough task of working with communities at a local level to develop local responses to their particular issues, the intervention saw the imposition of a blanket one-size-fits-all response. Sending in the troops may have been diametrically opposed to the clear recommendation to make NT communities participants in building their own solutions, but this makes sense when we remember that child protection was the justification, not the objective. The true motivation of government was to corral voters : 'black kids overboard'. On other grounds we may be thankful this disgusting ploy failed, but the determination of the incoming labor federal government to make aboriginal affairs a 'non-issue' for the populous states has badly harmed Territorians and NT communities. There remain many good reasons to oppose the intervention, but surely one very important argument for abandoning the NTER laws is that they have utterly failed to address the stated objectives of improving the lives of children in NT communities.
no one is saying that child abuse isn't happening in indigenous communities... were talking here about the premise in which the NT Intervention took place, IT WAS BASED ON LIES!! - I for a fact believe you to be among the millions of uninformed aussies out there that take the media as their advocate for building opinions on events as produced by the government. The LCAS was itself based on rather faulty grounds with their research conducted being having sourced from the media (go figure) and a racist crown prosecutor by the name of Nannete rogers. Tell me when did the government start taking the word of the media and lawyers for research over actual figures that COULD HAVE BEEN OBTAINED THROUGH proper studies? The LCAS clear states that the evidence research conducted for base of this report is not one that is partial and non-inclusive of the majority of the communities of the northern Territory, furthermore there are no child pedophile rings out there! not one condition has been made since the time NT took place... this a lll my friend is racial discourse ever so well carried out by the media to keep our conceptions of the indigenous in status quo with theirs!!